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Illness is a common gloss for two Scriptural terms:

  1. yamai やまい・やまひ・病
  2. mijo 身上

One major difference between these terms is that yamai is the term used in the Ofudesaki and Mikagura-uta whereas mijo is the term overwhelmingly used in the Osashizu.

It may be worthy to note that there are three instances in the English Ofudesaki where “illness” is a translation of “ashiki.”[1] Other related Ofudesaki terms include (mi no uchi) sawari (disorder (of the body)).

Further, it may also be noted that the term “mijo” is perhaps unique to Tenrikyo. It simply meant “body” and “physical condition” but gradually came to take on the meaning of a physical disorder or illness.


In the entry “Illness (Yamai)” from the A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms, it is explained:

“According to Tenrikyo, illness provides an opportunity to open humans’ minds to the true nature of their own existence and to realize that their life is only possible owing to God, the Parent of humankind. Given that the body is a thing lent by God, a thing that belongs to God, and that life is due to God’s providence, illness is something that happens to God’s own body and can be taken as an indication that God is proactively trying to reach out to humans and speak to them. In other words, illness is one way in which God’s intention is communicated to them. Illness occurs because there is an intention in God’s mind that is to be conveyed….
“To bring themselves into perfect accord with God’s intention, it is necessary to listen to God with total openness, which requires utter selflessness. It should be noted that this does not refer to mere self-denial; rather, it means being able to tap God’s workings more fully, whereby a new, total self can emerge. That is, grounded in the realization that the body is a thing borrowed from God, humans can replace the mind, sweep out the dust of the mind, and gain full access to God’s workings, which will make it possible for them to go through spiritual renewal and attain salvation. This will mark the birth of a new being who makes a conscious effort to live in accordance with God’s intention, thereby bringing to fruition God’s instruction provided through illness. Indeed, illness is not only God’s warning about humans’ mistaken mind but also God’s way of teaching them how to become a Yoboku who, supported by a secure knowledge of the origin and foundation of human existence, is capable of living in full accord with God’s intention.”[2]

Scriptural references to “yamai”

Song Ten of the Mikagura-uta reveals that the cause of illness (yamai) lies in the mind. In addition to reinforcing this notion[3] and introducing various forms of dust as “paths of the mistaken mind”[4], the Ofudesaki reveals that illnesses are manifestations of God the Parent’s anger (rippuku)[5] and regret (zannen)[6]. Illness is further described as God’s call for service (yo-muki)[7], divine care (teiri)[8], guidance (tebiki)[9], hastening/urging (sekikomi)[10], and road signs (michi-ose)[11].

The Ofudesaki also claims that if one fully understood the original intention behind the creation of human beings as well as God the Parent’s providence enacted at creation, there would be no cause for illness to appear.[12]

Further, one of the forms of salvation promised in the Ofudesaki is a life free from illness, premature death, and weakening (yamazu, shinazu ni, yowaran).[13]

Appearances/frequency of “Yamai” in Scripture

Appearances “Yamazu” (freedom from illness) in the Ofudesaki


The term mijo 身上 is often followed by the term jijo (trouble). Compared with yamai, mijo is the term that is overwhelmingly used to refer to disease in the Osashizu.

Mijo originally meant “body” or “physical condition.” Quotes attributed to Oyasama that contain this term include “mijo ni shirushi” (mark on the body)[15] and “mijo ga moto ya” (the body is of prime importance)[16].

Mijo can be translated in several ways besides “illness.” An analysis of how it has been translated in the latest English edition of The Doctrine of Tenrikyo reveals there several other alternate ways it can rendered into English. They include:

  • “bodies” (p. 8, p. 54, p. 55)
  • “disease” (p. 16)
  • “the body” (p. 50, p. 55 2x, )
  • “become ill” (p. 51)
  • “the body is a thing lent/borrowed” (p. 51 2x, p. 56, p. 78)
  • “good health” (p. 60)

Mijo also happens to be translated as “health disorder” in A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms.

Frequency of “Mijo” in the Osashizu and other Tenrikyo publications

There are too many appearances of mijo in the Osashizu to count. The section covering mijo in the three volume index to the Osashizu spans 37 pages.[17]

External links

(pages nos. refer to hardcopy equivalent)


  1. See Ofudesaki 2:22, Ofudesaki 3:131, Ofudesaki 17:52.
  2. A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms, pp. 157–9.
  3. Ofudesaki 1:24.
  4. Ofudesaki 3:95–96.
  5. Ofudesaki 1:25, 1:32.
  6. Ofudesaki 14:77
  7. Ofudesaki 4:25.
  8. Ofudesaki 10:68, 14:21
  9. Ofudesaki 2:7, 2:22
  10. Ofudesaki 2:7, [[Ofudesaki 2:11
  11. Ofudesaki 2:22, 3:138
  12. Ofudesaki 3:92–93; 『おふでさき注釈』 Ofudesaki chushaku, pp. 45–46.
  13. Ofudesaki 3:99, 4:37, 6:110, 10:11, 11:59, 12:105, 13:115, 17:53
  14. 『おさしづ索引』 Osashizu sakuin, pp. 2645–6 (vol. 3 pp. 675–6)
  15. Anecdotes of Oyasama 166.
  16. Anecdotes of Oyasama 178.
  17. 『おさしづ索引』 Osashizu sakuin, pp. 2380–2416 (vol. 3 pp. 410–446).